Konta faces two-time Madrid champion Simona Halep in second round
MADRID, SPAIN – Johanna Konta showed no signs of letting up on this new found clay-court form as she eased past Alison Riske to set up a second round clash with reigning French Open champion Simona Halep.
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Johanna Konta def. Alison Riske 6-4 6-1
A little over 24 hours after losing her first tour-level clay court final, British No. 1 Johanna Konta was back on the dirt, having hot-footed it over from Rabat, where she was edged out in the final by Maria Sakkari.
The Rabat champion fared less well, losing in straight sets, but Konta certainly started in impressive form, jumping out to a 4-1 lead before perhaps a mid-set wobble, allowing Riske back into the match, as she drew level 4-4. Konta re-established herself to break for the first set.
It was another quick and decisive start for the Brit, again etching out a 4-1 lead over the American, and this time there was no mid-set walkabout, as she broke once more before serving out the set, despite having to fend off a break point along the way.
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Konta v Simona Halep  | Tied at 3-3 (Incl. Fed Cup); Tour only: Konta leads 3-1
Konta has found herself tested over the past week or so, even having to save match-points to keep this streak on clay going, but this will be another level altogether as she faces two-time Madrid champion and reigning Roland Garros champion Simona Halep in the second round.
Halep had to pull out of Stuttgart following an injury picked up during the Fed Cup semi-finals, and it left her both physically and mentally exhausted. However, she was more than looking forward to everything that being a reigning slam champion was going to offer, and with rest and recuperation, she was in suitable impressive form in her opener, and looks to be fighting fit again.
Although Konta leads the head to head on the tour, with Halep stopping the run of wins two years ago in Cincinnati, overall they are tied at 3-3 with Halep getting a comprehensive win over the Brit on lay at home in a highly charged Fed Cup battle for a spot in World Group II.
What Konta must take as a positive is that she has started to find her feet, not only on the demon slippery surface, but she is getting a little better at determining her shot selection while trying to add some variety to her repertoire. However against Halep, who admitted with a beaming smile in Stuttgart that this was her favourite time of the year.
While Konta has made some great strides (if not slides) this week, Halep in form on the surface she loves is most definitely step too far. Halep can run things down all day long, so trying to introduce the sometimes ill-fated drop-shots will have no effect here. Konta needs to keep to her tried and tested format – taking the ball early and driving play aggressively where she can. She might stay toe to toe with the No. 3 seed, but ultimately this would be on Halep’s racquet to lose.
Prediction: Halep in straight sets.
Konta and Halep are scheduled on Court Manolo Santana at 12pm (11am BST).
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